“The Life Science Summer Institute plays a critical role in preparing future professionals for the skills they will need to flourish in the biotechnology sector”
San Diego Workforce Partnership
Spending eight hours everyday on intense study in a classroom may not be how many teens envision launching their summer vacation.
|At the Life Science Summer Institute|
Just don’t tell that to the 13 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors who began a prestigious, 8-week, Life Science Summer Institute program with 40 hours of training at a Grossmont College `boot camp’ to prepare them for working the rest of the summer in paid internships at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Scripps Research Institute and UC San Diego.
“It was wonderful,” said Fowsia Abdi, 17, who just completed her junior year at Mount Miguel High School. “They started out teaching us the basics, what we need to know when working in a laboratory, doing a lot of experiments, doing a lot of math skills work, and how to keep a notebook.”
After completing the boot camp, Fowsia began her internship at Scripps for nearly two months of neuroscience research.
“When I learned I had been accepted into the program, I thought maybe I’d be doing filing work,” she said. “Then I went in for an interview and learned that I’ll be working with a mentor doing laboratory research. It’s an incredible opportunity.”
About three dozen high school students from throughout San Diego County were accepted into the annual Life Science Summer Institute that began June 22 with boot camps at either Grossmont College or San Diego Miramar College.
“Grossmont College’s mission includes providing an exceptional learning environment that enables diverse individuals to pursue their dreams, so we are proud to host a week of workshops that will give these young students invaluable experience as they begin their journey into critical STEM fields,” said Interim Grossmont College President Tim Flood.
A collaboration between the San Diego Workforce Partnership, the Southern California Biotechnology Center and BIOCOM, the Life Science Summer Institute began in 2005 to strengthen science and math education in San Diego County and inspire more high school students to pursue careers in the region’s burgeoning life sciences industry.
“Grossmont College has maintained a relationship with the San Diego Workforce Partnership for several years because this program supports our school's primary mission statement: changing lives through education,” said biology professor Allison Shearer, who taught the Grossmont College bootcamp with colleague Craig Milgrim.
“Many of the students who come to our program are going to be first generation college students and have overcome socioeconomic and/or academic challenges to take part in the effort," she said "The chance to participate in a program with a top-level research institution via training through the Life Science Summer Institute has led to many of our students gaining long-term internships and/or led to their acceptance into some of the top four-year colleges in the country where these students can pursue STEM careers.”
Ryan Hall just graduated from Steele Canyon High School and will be attending UCLA in the fall to study chemical engineering. He said the Grossmont College bootcamp “is an opportunity to get in the door of research without being overwhelmed. It better prepares me for my internship.”
Hall, too, will be working at Scripps Research Institute
Steve Miller, an adjunct faculty member at Grossmont who is doing his postdoctoral work at UC San Diego in developmental biology, served as a tutor and observer at the Grossmont boot camp, which he called invaluable.
“It gives them experience with the techniques they’ll be using in the lab and it gets them acclimated to the tools they’ll use,” he said. “It can be a little intimidating for a high school student to walk into a lab at a research facility and work with some of the equipment. This allows them the ability to make mistakes in a safe environment before they head off for their internships.”
Interns undergo an extensive application process, and all must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 to apply. Students also must craft an essay explaining their interest, solicit two letters of recommendation, and submit a cover letter, resume, and school transcripts. More than 300 students applied.
“It’s a very competitive process,” said Sandra Slivka, who has been the SCBC director since it opened at San Diego Miramar College in 2004. “They’re doing high-level research.”
It would be hard to overstate the biotechnology industry’s impact on the regional economy. According to a San Diego Workforce Partnership report released last fall, the life sciences industry employs nearly 45,000 people and generates about $16 billion in annual sales revenue. The average life science sector employee earns an annual median salary of approximately $125,000.
“The Life Science Summer Institute plays a critical role in preparing future professionals for the skills they will need to flourish in the biotechnology sector,” said Peter Callstrom, President and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership. “The life sciences industry is a vital component in the regional economy, and so it is important that we do everything we can for the whole workforce continuum, from K-12 to college and beyond, all the way to the workforce, to make sure that biotechnology has a pipeline of trained workers.”
(Photos courtesy of the San Diego Workforce Partnership)